Vipers and KCCA have been the dominant teams in the Uganda Premier League over the past six years sharing six titles and the latter claiming four of those crowns.
Barring a major collapse or spectacular rise from the other 14 clubs, that trend is set to continue in the 2018-19 season.
The reigning champions are again expected to be one of the front runners for this season’s title and as witnessed over the years, have again assembled one of the deepest squads both in terms of quality and quantity. Moses Waiswa appears ready to shoulder the responsibility of leading the team as evidenced by his performances in the final bend last season. There are few better passers of the ball the midfielder who has also added more industry to his game.
With the club offering Frank ‘Zaga’ Tumwesigye another first team opportunity, their midfield alongside club captain Taddeo Lwanga should hold them in good stead. Last season’s league top scorer Dan Sserunkuma is also sure to provide more goals but the club could be undone by the massive off-season changes.
They took a while to hit their stride last season under Miguel Da Costa, finishing the first round in third place, six points behind leaders Villa.
The Portuguese has since been replaced by Mexican Javier Martinez Espinoza who in addition to knowing little about the domestic game must get the team to gel following a huge turnover of players.
Lugogo similarly witnessed another customary transfer period of chopping and changing under manager Mike Mutebi but unlike their Vipers counterparts, changes are often effected by the technical department rather than the club president.
This often leaves them competitive as witnessed in winning two of the last three league titles. Patrick Kaddu has so far shown readiness to shoulder the goal scoring burden left following the departures of Derrick Nsibambi and Muhamad Shaban.
He should ably be complemented by Allan Kyambadde and Musa Esenu as well as a supporting cast that includes another exciting youngster in Steven Sserwadda, Allan Okello, Jackson Nunda, Saddam Juma, Gift Ali and Julius Poloto.
THE REST – SC VILLA
The effects of internal strife are expected to spill into the new season with former club president Ben Misagga having tried to get back at a section of club fans against him by sanctioning the sale of virtually the entire first team squad. The trio of Nicholas Kasozi, Allan Kyambadde and Bernard Muwanga were inexplicably sold to rivals KCCA and while they should be able to cope with in defense and midfield, have a lightweight attack.
Abdulrahman Ajab tasked to lead their line is yet to reach the 10-goal mark from all his time at CRO, JMC and URA while Pius Wangi are eyeing breakout seasons after showing promise at parent club Vipers.
With club under interim leadership headed by William Nkemba they have not been able to compete for the best players available on the market hence the acquisitions of Manko Kaweesa and Mike Sserumaga.
A top three finish will be regarded a success even at the most successful club in the country.
The Arua- based side posted an improvement last season finishing fourth after a fifth place finish on their maiden appearance.
They will be eager to crack the top three positions under Asaph Mwebaze after managing to keep a number of key players at the club including Nicholas Ssebwato, Rashid Toha and livewire winger Vianey Sekajugo.
The club is rumoured to have interested new sponsors following the departure of major partner Betway that is expected to bring a huge financial strain on the club.
On paper, the 2005 champions have a first team to rival any in the top division. Coach Abdallah Mubiru has managed to make the side one of the most entertaining in the league with the recruitments of Ashraf “Fadiga” Bamuturaki, Hassan Kalega and Simon Mbaziira reinforcing that belief.
He is also expecting plenty of goals from the returning Ronald Nyanzi as the club make a switch to the StarTimes Stadium in Lugogo. The players’ strike over non paid wages has this time come at the start of the season from what appears as an annual administration problem at the club.
After the tumultuous reign of Florence Nakiwala and briefly Hassan Bulwadda, optimism has returned to Wankulukuku under Kiryowa Kiwanuka and while they might not win the league they should at least be competitive.
Much will depend on the mood and fitness of Tony Odur who will be assisted by Eric Kambale. If granted playing time by coach Kefa Kisala, youngster Billy Nkata will surely bring a few smiles too to the Muteesa II Stadium.
Sam Ssimbwa was brought in to steady the ship at URA after Paul Nkata’s disastrous stint. The 2011 champions will be difficult to breakdown like most Simbwa teams but there is likely to be an over reliance on playmaker Shafik Kagimu especially with no prolific striker at the club.
The past week has been dominated by the confirmation of former Cranes captain David Obua as assistant to head coach George Nsimbe. Previous coach Asaph Mwebaze preferred youthfulness over experience, managing to get the best out of the likes of Pius Obuya and Solomon Walusimbi. It will thus be interesting to see how the new pair fare having brought on board more experience. Anyone still remembers Dan Wagaluka?
From his experience coaching in the University Football League, coach Charles Ayieko has relied upon the younger players picked from the competition to help establish Kirinya-Jinja as a topflight club.
He appears to be going for a different approach this season adding the experience of Cranes defender Isaac Isinde and the industrious David Bagoole. The club also added a Japanese midfielder Masataka Sakaguchi to the squad that should again be competitive.
Retaining captain Nelson Senkatuka was a major coup for as the club seeking to add more creativity to the grit associated with Fred Kajoba coached teams. This could also be a breakout season for the stylish Mahad Kisekka who has flattered to deceive basing on his talent.
Wasswa Bbosa is one of the few domestic coaches with the ability to make players play for him. Little wonder he moved with no less than five players when he left Villa and previously Express. Having flirted with relegation, it should be a more comfortable season for the club that since moved to Fortportal.
By Thursday evening it remained unclear when Mbarara would be readmitted to the topflight league after they appealed a decision to throw them out. This followed failure to provide an alternative ground to Kakyeka that was deemed substandard.
The club had before that focused on improving their forward department by signing Paul Mucureezi from KCCA. The other is Jude Semugabi scorer of 24 goals for Kiboga Young in the third division and is current top scorer in the Masaza Cup with eight goals.
Peter Onen was elevated to the head coaching role in an off season that has seen the acquisitions of Joshua Lubwama, Musa Malunda Farouk Banga and Villa Oromchan to reduce the dependence on Hamis Tibita. They could again flirt with relegation.
Last season two of the three promoted sides Mbarara and Maroons survived relegation. It is difficult to see a similar scenario basing on the inexperience of Ndejje.
Nyamityobora and Paidha meanwhile appear short of quality and need to sort a few off field issues to stave off relegation